Chinese landing on the Senkakus would be “expelled by force”, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned after eight surveillance vessels were seen near the disputed islands.

The latest flare up in the East China Sea was apparently provoked by the controversial visits of nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers to the Yasukuni war shrine, seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression.

Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, after the flotilla – the largest in a single day – entered into disputed waters. Cheng demanded that all Japanese ships leave the waters near the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese.

Beijing called the shrine visit an “attempt to deny Japan’s history of aggression”, according to AFP.

In response, Abe vowed to take “decisive action” in the event of a Chinese landing on the islands, reports South China Morning Post. “We would never allow a landing,” Abe told parliament. “It would be natural for us to expel by force if the Chinese were to make a landing,” he said.

The visits also triggered protests from Seoul, prompting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se to cancel his visit to Tokyo.